The constitution of the Republic of Maldives, in its second chapter, states the fundamental rights and freedoms for all its Citizens. Article 36 of that chapter states their right to education.
(a) Everyone has the right to education without discrimination of any kind.
(b) Primary and secondary education shall be freely provided by the State. It is imperative on parents and the State to provide children with primary and secondary education. Opportunity for higher education shall be generally accessible to all citizens.
(c) Education shall strive to inculcate obedience to Islam, instil love for Islam, foster respect for human rights, and promote understanding, tolerance and friendship among all people.
We have to agree, that in the recent years, our government had made the opportunity to pursue higher studies less burdening than it was before. With the introduction of low interest student loans and the very recent decision for the free first degree in Maldives, many aspiring youths have determined to achieve a higher education.
The introduction of these low interest loans, had driven many students to aim higher and pursue degrees abroad as well. However, the government only issued Maldivian Rufiyaa to these students as well; i.e. they calculated the tuition fees and living expenses at the official government fixed exchange rate of MVR15.42 per USD. In addittion, the local banks did not provide the facility for exchanging MVR to USD. This led the students having to exchange on the black market where prices ranged from 15.6 - 16 MVR per USD. Which they considered an acceptable sacrifice for gaining an education from an established overseas university.
However, with the Covid-19 pandemic wreaking havoc in our overly tourism dependent economy, the local currency's value plummeted in the black market from the previous 16 to a range of 18 - 19 MVR per USD. And our government that provided all these opportunities overlooked the additional burden of the students that they had already left to rely on the relatively stable exchange rate in the black market.
A whole generation enticed to walk a bridge that broke off in the middle.
This drastic decrease in the value of our currency has led to many students having to bear an even largen burden than they used to. It is imperative for the government to find a solution for these students. They will no longer be able to afford the tuition fees as the Maldivian government still issues the same amount of MVR to them as they did pre-pandemic. The banks do not exchange dollars unless it is a medical emergency. The Ministry of Higher Education nor any other government authority provides assistance in acquiring USD.
If the government does not step up to remedy this situation and help these students, I am afraid many of them will not be able to continue with their studies and will drop out from their courses. All the hard work they have done so far, gone in vain, and their dreams crushed by the weight of the exchange rate.
The right to education will remain only to those that dared not to aim higher.